Former Olympian Rajiv Ouseph took charge at the inaugural England Challenge Cup as the England badminton squad played on home soil for the first time since March.
The one-day event, held at the National Badminton Centre in Milton Keynes, saw two teams formed from the squad, Ouseph captaining the Lions who claimed a 17-4 victory over Anthony Clark’s Dragons.
Speaking before the event Hounslow-born Ouseph, 34, said he hoped the event could bring out the competitive spirit in the team ahead of next year’s Olympics.
He said: “It is difficult times for everyone, the players included, and we’re lucky to be able to continue to train. We know we’re lucky to do that but the players havent competed too much since March so we’re looking to generate some internal competition.
“We’re hoping that we can generate the competitiveness that international tournaments bring in our own environment and I’m looking forward to seeing if the players can create that sort of intensity.”
The event was broadcast on BBC Online and the iPlayer and Ouseph is optimistic that this platform can introduce a new audience to the sport.
He said: “There are so many other sports that are on TV and badminton isn’t always one of them.
“For us to get the sport growing and try and get eyes on badminton is always a big thing.
“What we’re trying to reinforce to the players is that it’s a great opportunity to grow the profile of the sport and also their own individual profiles too.”
Ouseph retired in August 2019 after a career that saw him win nine national titles, the 2017 European Championship as well as a fifth-place finish at the Rio 2016 Olympics among many other accolades.
He has since taken up the role of pathway coach and hopes to use his position to encourage more British Asians to take up the sport.
“It’s about making sure that the community knows this is an avenue that is a possibility for young people and making sure that they know there is a career path,” he said.
Badminton will receive £2m as part of the governments £300m winter survival package but Ouseph has his eyes fixed on Tokyo 2021.
He said: “At this moment for me, it’s not too much about the figures it’s just about trying to get the players to be the best they can for when competition starts again.
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t aim to try and get those medals. It’s going to be difficult, but we have got some very strong players.
“Hopefully we can produce some good performances and it’s just about who performs well on that week so we’re just trying to build towards that.”
Featured image credit: Badminton Photo